47: An Unexpected Guardian Angel

47: An Unexpected Guardian Angel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Cat

An Unexpected Guardian Angel

Who hath a better friend than a cat?

~William Hardwin

Something was wrong with Percy. Panting, his dilated eyes darted back and forth. He paced up and down over my stomach and rib cage. Over and over again. I put my book down and lifted the sixteen-pound mass of fur, muscle, and fat off my stomach again and set him on the floor beside my bed.

Yes, I was irritated. It was Sunday afternoon—my one day to get some rest. I wanted to read, just for a little while. But Percy wouldn’t have it. Seconds later, he jumped up on the bed and resumed his routine.

What was with this cat? In spite of being beaten and abandoned, Percy had always been laid back with me. For ten years, he had been the only man in my life—healing my own broken heart. He loved to snuggle. On days like this, he’d curl up on my lap or find that special crook in my knee and settle down for a nap while I read.

But not today. I glanced out the window. Not a thunderstorm in sight. I wasn’t surprised. Spring in central California usually didn’t include rain. The sun shone brightly outside. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. All was silent. Well, except for Percy, who continued to mew and pace up and down across my stomach.

I threw the book across the bed, hoping to distract him. The pages flipped, and I knew I had lost my spot. My anger began to boil, and I swore I felt the slightest hint of a headache forming. That was it. Sitting up, I planned to lock him out of my inner sanctum, but just as I reached for him, I felt it—the now all-too-familiar flutter in my stomach.

Oh no. Not today.

Panicked, my mind raced through all the emergency procedures. My roommate had left for some afternoon errands. I wasn’t sure where my cell phone was. The front door was locked and only a few trusted friends had extra keys—in case this happened again. It was amazing, but I had never been alone when one started. But today, my greatest fear was happening. I was alone.

I pushed myself off the bed, grabbed the glass of water on the nightstand and tried to walk to the kitchen to get my medicine. Normally, I kept a dose or two in my purse, just in case of such emergencies, but even my purse was nowhere to be seen.

My legs trembled as I stumbled into the hallway. It was coming fast. I gasped for air, and my vision blurred. I reached for the door frame but missed. The glass slipped out of my hand and rolled down the hallway ahead of me. Water sprinkled the carpet where I was about to fall.

When my legs finally crumbled underneath me, I prayed. “No, God, please. Please help me.” But it was too late. The seizure had already taken control. My medicine was still too far away and no one was around to help. My shoulder scraped against the wall and bounced slightly as I hit the floor.

I never remember much once they start. Since I had been diagnosed with epilepsy six years earlier, I had been so careful to avoid the normal triggers and heed any warning signs. Some days, the unsettling auras began hours before an episode. I always had enough time to take my medicine or call one of my friends who lived nearby. What had I missed?

The world suddenly became a dream. My arms and legs shook. Tears streamed down my face. “No. Please, no.” I heard myself pleading, but even my own words seemed muffled as I floated in and out of consciousness.

My breath stayed locked in my throat. Only gasps escaped. Somewhere in the dream, a weight moved onto my chest. After what seemed like hours, but probably only a few minutes, the tremors stilled. Just before sleep finally came, my hand fell on the mound of fur that had climbed up on top of me.

I never know how long I’m out unless someone tells me. Sometimes the sleep only lasts a few minutes. Other times, close to an hour. As I slip in and out of consciousness, I normally hear the strange voices of people around me, sometimes the touch of someone’s hand. But this time, all I heard was a steady rumbling—the guttural purring of a cat.

Some time later, I woke up, confused. Where was I? What had happened? I lay in the hallway, looking up at the burnt out light bulb screwed into the ceiling. My head spun, and my shoulder hurt. My fingers brushed against something damp on the carpet as my eyes saw the empty glass just a few feet away. The memory of what had just happened seemed far away, but I knew it hadn’t been a dream.

As the fog in my brain lifted, I turned and was nose-to-nose with my big fat cat, still laying across my chest and purring loudly. Stretching, he pushed his paw up against my left cheek. He leaned forward and sniffed my nose, staring at me with his green eyes, as if to ask, “Are you okay?”

As Percy rubbed his head gently around my chin, I dragged a weak arm to my side and buried my fingers in his fur. I don’t know what it is about the rumble of a cat’s purr that is so calming, but it worked. My breathing steadied. My arms and legs relaxed as I closed my eyes to rest. I was never alone after all.

It would be a while before I could stand, but Percy stayed with me until I was able to sit up. Even then, he refused to leave my side the rest of the day. He followed me into the kitchen and watched me take my medication. I spent the remainder of the afternoon on the couch, recuperating. Although he didn’t crawl on my stomach, Percy was never far away. He curled up on the chair across the room and slept, but I suspect he kept one eye on me the whole time.

~Carolyn R. Bennett

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